last year, having been out the Friday before and realised only at about 22.00 that the fest was on the next day, myself and Tash did not make it to the bus based Drone and other valley beer festival. We probably slept in late and then went out afterwards. This year I also remembered only on the Friday, having likely confirmed I was going on Faceache, but Tash encouraged me to go. What is a man to do when faced with this challenge? Decline? Well, not I. And albeit later than usual, I headed out.
It took about 3 and half years to get to town because the bus was full of pricks. People who couldn't get on, determine the fare or indeed their destination, or their reason or living. This is the first example of bus rage. Its something I will get over, one day. Probably....
I got the tickets at 14.45 and nipped in the Sheffield Tap for a quick half, of Magic Rock Rapture. I raced this down my throat outside in the sunshine, and soon I was on the 15.05 train.
I bumped into fellow Sheffield Beer Blogger Paul Holden - it was his first festival and he was meeting friends and his other half. As I was on a mission, I left him to ponder where this would take place and raced to the Dronfield Arms. Unsurprisingly, as well as the 6 real ales and keykegs in the pub, there was also an outside bar and plenty of seating on hay bails in the sunshine. I sat down on one with a pint of Steel City and Hopcraft Midnight in Antarctica and met up with Paul and his Brother-in-law o be Chris. A further delicious half of Bad Seed pale Ale followed, before we began the bus horror.
I explained to Paul that I suffered from bus rage, how many times this had happened at previous festivals and how nonsensical the service would be. Sure enough, the first two buses to arrive were A and C. We wanted B. It was then that we bumped into some gents that Paul knew and secured a timetable, before popping into the White Swan whilst waiting. There was a bar in the packed outside, but it was a cider bar. Inside there were two real ales, Adnams and Moonshine, so we got a half each, served in a pint plastic glass with no lines on. I know the pub isn't claiming to be a real ale mecca but the barman did not even speak or look at us, and we weren't convinced of the measures. A disappointing stop.
Round at the bus station, two buses turned up about the time ours was due. One changed from C to A and waited, the other remained as A and set off, allegedly to Barlow Brewery. Asking the driver of the other A where B was he had no idea. Luckily it did turn up - as a C. And not long after we arrived at Hundall for the Miners Arms.
Those of you who have visited Hundall before will know that its small. Very small. More a hamlet than a village. That the Miners Arms remains open, selling, I think, 4 real ales normally, is a credit to those running it. It does, however, mean that turning a large double decker bus round in the junction with some less than intelligent parking is a nightmare. Full marks to the driver for persisting the bus round the tiny gap.
In the pub the bar was rammed - they appeared to be selling 3 or 4 Pictish and Saltaire Raspberry blonde, but Chris was sure they had a Titanic cherry bitter on. This was in the outside bar - not the cider playground up the top - but the small one round the back of the pub. An enviable line of ales included the Titanic, which was surprisingly bitter for a fruit beer and which Chris and Paul had, along with a fantastic Siren Craft Oatmeal Pale Ale which I had. Chris thought the beer was a bit lacklustre being served from the barrel, and I agree in comparison to being forced or pulled up through a tight metal tube it has no or little head, but if the beer is of good quality that should let the flavours shine through. IN both cases this is what happened.
We were joined by other halves here and bumped into Josh and Louise. They had rather more sensibly arranged a lift from Eric, Louise's Dad, and he was on soft drinks bless him. Josh had returned form a long wait in the bar with ta pint which he shared and I stood with them whilst Paul and Chris caught up with their group. I then got a lift to the Travellers at Apperknowle.
This was the star of the show, and, in fact, my final stopping point in the festival. As well as 5 or more real ales inside, there was a large bar in the car park selling 20 or so real ales. Many where from Scotland and all 3 of us wanted the amazing Fyne Ales Jarl - alas this ran out whilst we waited at the bar. Gah! Instead, the three of us had pints of the excellent Oakham Citra. All beers were £3.00 a pint as well.
The views and scenery around the Travellers make this a lovely spot to spend time, and coupled with the excellent beer range this was easily the pub of the festival, although maybe tied with the Dronfield Arms. I had another pint of the Citra and got chatting to Tim Higham. I was introduced to Tim and his friend, whose name alcohol has taken from me, a few years ago by Barraharri. We were on a short 3 Valleys Tour in Dave's car and I met them at the Three Tuns. I haven't seen Tim since Dave's leaving do but he came up and gave me a nod and a hug and having now lost track of Josh et al, I sat with them.
My final two beers were Windsor and Eton Conqueror and Skye Black Gold. I supped these with Tim and also caught up with Paul and his friends before heading for the bus. This time, the transport worked fine, and I arrived at the station before 20.00 to catch the 5 past train to Sheffield. I nipped into the Sheffield Tap at this point and bumped into Mr Morton, who had also been to the festival. He noted that he had gone to the first and other early ones and there was little comparison with the hugeness of the modern festival, which he felt was a shame.
I can see his point of view in some ways. There are some, albeit less striking, resemblances with the Trans Pennine real ale trail - people turning up just to get hammered, people drinking before and on the transport, people treating the venues with disrespect. However, overall, the above aside, I think the 3 Valleys beer festival is a resounding success. Each year more pubs get involved, and each year delicious beers are served from local and national breweries in pubs who, for the most part, make a real effort to provide for the festival goers.
I had a fantastic time, and so did all the people who I spoke to who had been, maybe with the exception of the buses.Long may its increasing success continue.